Billed as a “sharp, vivacious take on two worlds colliding”, the play is inspired by the real-life story of a flamboyant con artist who managed to convince wealthy residents of Manhattan’s Upper East Side he was the son of Sidney Poitier. Head and Manville are the affluent couple, John and Louise Kittredge, and Obili is the social-climbing interloper Paul.
Six Degrees of Separation originally debuted on Broadway in 1990 and in 1993 was adapted as a film starring Stockard Channing - reprising her stage role - Donald Sutherland and Will Smith. In 1992, it received its London premiere at the Royal Court with a cast including Channing, Paul Shelley and Adrian Lester, going on to win the Olivier for Best New Play.
Lesley Manville’s most recent stage credits include Her Naked Skin, Pillars of the Community, His Dark Materials, Some Girls and, at the Old Vic, All About My Mother. On screen, she’s well known for her collaborations with Mike Leigh, including the films High Hopes, Secrets and Lies, Topsy-Turvy, All of Nothing and Vera Drake.
Anthony Head’s many TV credits include Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Little Britain, Spooks, Manchild, Merlin and VR.5. He was most recently seen in the West End in 2005 opposite Richard E Grant in Otherwise Engaged, for which he won the Whatsonstage.com Award for Best Supporting Actor.
A recent RADA graduate, Obi Abili has so far made an impression in Dido Queen of Carthage at the National, The Brothers Size at the Young Vic and Angels in America for Headlong. The Six Degrees of Separation also includes Sarah Goldberg, Michael Goldsmith, Ilan Goodman, Steven Pacey, Sara Stewart, Paul Stocker and Kevin Trainor. The production is designed by Jonathan Fensom, with lighting by Jason Taylor and sound by Gregory Clarke.
In other West End play casting news (See News, 9 Oct 2009), the full company has been announced for Thea Sharrock’s new production of The Misanthrope, which is led by Damian Lewis and, making her stage debut, Keira Knightley, and which runs from 17 December 2009 (previews from 5 December) to 13 March 2010 at the Comedy Theatre.
In addition to Lewis, Knightley and, as previously announced, Tara Fitzgerald, Dominic Rowan and Tim McMullan, the ensemble cast will feature Chuk Iwuji (The Histories for the RSC), Kelly Price (best known for musicals including A Little Night Music and Guys and Dolls) and Nicholas Le Prevost (whose most recent credits include Bedroom Farce, The Last Cigarette and The Philadelphia Story).
Martin Crimp’s version is set in modern-day London, where Alceste (Lewis) is a famous British playwright disillusioned and angry with the hypocrisy, shallowness and vanity of the contemporary world. Vowing to reject society, Alceste’s plans are derailed when he falls madly in love with Jennifer (Knightley), an ambitious American film star and darling of the social scene, who may prove to be his biggest challenge yet.